The awful truth remains: By 2019—that is, even before COVID—the Class of 1980’s death rates at age 39 were higher than their counterparts’ from the Classes of 1970 and 1960. At age 29, the Class of 1990’s death rates were indistinguishable from those of the Class of 1950. In Japan, the Class of 1990’s mortality rate at age 29 was over 80 percent lower than those of their “grandparents” from the Class of 1930. In the US, the corresponding differential was less than 8 percent. If we look carefully at Figure 2, we can see unwelcome “crossovers”—where death rates in adulthood exceeded those of earlier cohorts—for every US cohort from the Class of 1950 onward in the years after the Berlin Wall fell (1990 onward). This is what prolonged stagnation—at times, even reversal—in national health progress looks like. Related: Who Won the Cold War? Part I and Who Won the Cold War? Part II
- Date Posted:
- May 26, 2023
Compare mortality in young adulthood for America’s Class of 1990 with their counterparts from affluent Cold War allies. Since breakdown by sex does not add much information here, we display overall mortality rates at ages 20 through 31 for the US and select Western European allies in Figure 3. Death rates at age 20 were universally lower for the treaty allies than Americans in the Class of 1990—usually much lower. Further, mortality curves for these allies generally remained much “flatter” over the course of their 20s than for the US. Consequently, the divergence in mortality risks between the US and the allies tended to increase over young adulthood for the Class of 1990, even before COVID. By age 29—i.e., in 2019, before the pandemic—mortality rates for the Class of 1990 were almost twice as high in the US as in New Zealand; two and a half times higher than in France; three time higher than in Japan; four times higher than in Italy or Spain.